If some Latin TV executives sounded confident, at times even giddy, as they prepared for the upfront presentations in May, it was clear why. In April, Univision, the leading Spanish-language network in the United States, marked nine weeks at No. 4 or higher on Nielsen’s ranking of the most-watched networks. Telemundo, meanwhile, reported its best quarter in the network’s history, up 7% from a year ago. And mun2, the NBCUniversal channel for young Latinos, had its best ratings year in 2012, with double-digit growth in viewers aged 18-49 and 18-34, according to Nielsen.
“With the last Census and the presidential election there’s been a paradigm shift,” says Michael Schwimmer, chief executive of NuvoTV, which reaches more than 32 million households, according to Nielsen Cable Universe estimates. Formerly called SÃTV, NuvoTV, billed as a “modern Latino entertainment” network, secured $40 million in new financing last summer. Former BBC America and Comedy Central exec Bill Hilary recently became head of programming, and Jennifer Lopez came on as a creative, production and marketing partner.
“The time has come across all fronts–in distribution, advertising and among viewers,” Schwimmer says.
Spanish cable TV experienced a 21% growth in ad spending from 2010 to 2011, and Spanish TV network ad spending grew 13%, according to Nielsen’s 2012 “Hispanic Market Imperative” report.
“Companies spend their dollars where they see the most potential and today they’re spending $5.7 billion on Spanish media, the majority of which is spent on Spanish television,” the report concluded.
“It’s all about reaching young Latinos in this country, which is just the most influential demographic the United States,” mun2 GM Diana MogollÃ³n says. “They over-index on everything you can imagine buying, movie openings, digital and mobile devices.”
Later this year, Univision and ABC will together launch Fusion, a new 24-hour English-language Latino news and entertainment channel. Comcast is touting the coming of El Rey, Robert Rodriguez’s channel for second- and third-generation Hispanics.
As competition increases among Spanish- and English-language outlets, Latin music’s biggest stars are being increasingly called upon to help deliver that young Latino audience.
“I Love Jenni,” a reality show starring Jenni Rivera, was the centerpiece of mun2’s programming before the regional Mexican singer’s death in a plane crash last December. In April, the channel will premiere a posthumous season of the show, after a special on the singer aired April 14. Rivera’s programming drove 60% of a 208% increase in video streams in the first quarter over last year on the channel’s website, according to mun2 sources.
Recent airings of “Larrymania,” a reality show starring young regional Mexican star Larry Hernandez, brought double-digit year-over-year growth in its time slot among viewers aged 18-34 and 18-49.
“They are businesspeople and they understand the TV platform really well,” MogollÃ³n says of Latin music celebrities. “It’s a win-win, for our brand but also in terms of what their goals are in expanding and launching new businesses.”
On Tr3s, MTV’s bilingual Latin lifestyle channel, the new season will include a show that follows reggaetÃ³n duo Wisin & Yandel on tour. The show is part of a programming slate that targets a multigenerational household, based on research that 45% of Latinos aged 18-34 live with their families.
“It’s time to make decisions based on reaching the millennial [demo],” Tr3s brand manager Fernando Gaston says. “It’s about finding a balance between our viewers’ roots and their reality.”
At NuvoTV, a reality show will follow Lopez’s dancers as they prepare for a tour, offering behind-the-scenes encounters with the star herself.
The presence of the biggest Latin artists on TV is, increasingly, going beyond Latino-centric channels to mainstream networks, which are also courting the growing Hispanic audience. Shakira’s gig as a judge on “The Voice,” a first by a Latin-American, was promoted on NBCUniversal’s English- and Spanish-language channels as part of a company-wide multiplatform effort, according to Telemundo Media executive VP of marketing Susan Salana. “Someone who is Spanish-language is now part of mainstream America,” Salana says. At ABC, Colombian pop star Juanes has been booked to perform on a special Latin edition of “Dancing With the Stars” on April 29.
Telenovelas still habitually populate the top 10 among Spanish-language prime-time programs. But chart-bound songs associated with the novelas are appealing to younger audiences, too. Universal Music Latin released Mexican singer/composer America Sierra’s “El Amor Manda” as the first single of her upcoming solo album, after it debuted as the theme of the Univision novela of the same name. The track is No. 2 on Billboard’s Regional Mexican Digital Songs chart and No. 18 on Latin Digital Songs, having sold 13,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Sierra, up to now best-known as vocalist for young Mexican electronic trio 3BallMTY, will play herself in an upcoming episode of the show.